Meet The Wine Kat! Q&A with Kat Wiggins

Kat Wiggins (aka The Wine Kat) is a UK born wine lover, turned New Zealand resident, currently flying the New Zealand wine flag as the Sales Manager at Seresin Estate in beautiful Marlborough. She’s also the “mother of little Miss Erin, occupier of kitchen, wielder of hoover, wrangler of mad dog and house rabbit.”

In her “spare” time she is a MW student and of course lover & drinker of wine… and gin.

We’re honoured that Kat found the time to answer some of our questions so we can find out a more about her move to New Zealand, life in Marlborough and her wine passion…

Hi Kat, tell us a bit about your yourself? Why did you move to New Zealand?
I entered into the UK wine trade almost straight out of university. I’d studied the not-tremendously-workplace-applicable subject of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Cambridge, but had also found myself learning a lot about wine while I was there too. Quite the wine-smitten-kitten by that stage, I wanted to learn more…

I was fortunate enough to find work at Lay & Wheeler, a fine wine merchant near where I grew up in Not-quite-the-only-way-is-Essex. I ended up remaining there for eleven years, selling and buying (and tasting/drinking) some of the world’s finest wines – and visiting Burgundy and Bordeaux most years. I was pretty lucky really.

While studying for my MW, I won a scholarship to Marlborough with Wine Marlborough, John Avery and the NZ-UK Link Foundation. I was here for just over three weeks and totally fell in love with the region. I loved the area, the variation in the industry, the people I met, everything.

When the opportunity came up to apply for a job at Seresin Estate, the stars aligned and I came out here permanently. It certainly wasn’t the purpose of the scholarship to act as a real estate agent for Marlborough, but hopefully the guys have forgiven me now.

Tell us a bit about your MW journey so far
I started the MW in 2012. It seemed like a logical step having been in the industry for a while and I’ve always been one to try and take the next step, always trying to move myself along, not get bored. And goodness me, did starting the MW take away the time available to get bored! It was also a great way to be bought down to earth with a bump. From being someone who felt like they knew a bit about wine, I found myself very definitely humbled in the face of 12 blind wines.

Still, I got through the first year alright, and also managed to pass the theory part of the final paper in 2013 (whoop). However, I fell flat on my face in the tastings (boo).

Just after that, I moved to New Zealand and let myself have a sabbatical and – if I’m honest – I just haven’t gone any further. This September marks my last chance to continue and I’ve debated whether I will sign up again or just call it a day, but I’m still unsure. The truth is that I struggled in London with almost-free access to any wine in the world, regular industry tastings, dinners, a range of commercial and quirky wine stores and proximity to Europe. Blenheim doesn’t quite have that… watch this space I suppose!

If you were a wine, which one would you be?
I’d love to say Chardonnay: versatile, much-loved; classic, yet modern; with the ability to age well… However, probably more like a Manzanilla Sherry: a bit quirky, with a salty sense of humour, good with food, happiest in the summer.

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
Favourite match is definitely good wine, good food and above all good company. Good company makes anything taste good! Well, perhaps apart from Grenache Blush, but we’ll let that go.

However, if actually looking for a more traditional wining and dining match, then Albarino with grilled sardines, Pinot and piggy, or crisp, cold, dry Sauvignon with oysters. And Chardonnay with everything.

Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you!

Hidden gems and favourite spots in your region
One of the best views across the Wairau Valley is definitely from my office. We’re up on the terrace, and looking north towards the Richmond Ranges and it’s a view that changes all the time: you can watch the weather rolling over the hills, the mist rising from the river in the mornings, or just enjoy the seasonal changes across the vineyards and olives. It really is beautiful – and highly distracting.

Arbour Restaurant is not such a hidden gem these days I suppose, as the genius chef there seems to be getting a lot of well-deserved press, but it’s certainly a must visit venue for anyone who loves good food and great service.

The Marlborough Sounds are stunning at any time of the year. Great walks, beautiful views, dolphins… and the opportunity to catch and collect amazing seafood. And on the way home, a wild and windswept walk and driftwood collection along Rarangi Beach certainly makes you feel alive!

Advice on buying wine
My advice would be to not be afraid. It can be intimidating when faced with a wall of wine (I feel the same sometimes in craft beer bars), but find a local wine store and start a conversation with the undoubtedly-friendly people there. They will help you find wines you might like, and different styles to try.

Experiment, take risks… The days of people being snooty about what you buy and how you drink it are numbered, if not gone, so have fun, and above all enjoy!

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
So many people…

  • Because I’d be fascinated to see what they were really like: Audrey Hepburn, Boadicea, Katherine Hepburn.
  • Because they’d make good conversation: Stephen Fry, Barack Obama, John Oliver, Germaine Greer.
  • Because they’d bring a good bottle: Dom.Perignon, Aubert de Villaine.
  • For the snacks and food based chat: Rene Redzepi, Yotam Ottolenghi.
  • And just cos he was so pretty: James Dean.

Thanks Kat for your time!

Make sure you follow “The Wine Kat” on Twitter & Instagram.

Cheers,
Caro

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